Grand Island, NE -
A new fitness program at the Grand Island YMCA evolved from strength and agility work being done with high school students, but trainers say they are not focused on molding elementary and middle schoolers into super athletes. With boxes, ladders, and cones spread across the gym floor, it’s what you’d expect to see at basketball or football practice. But GI YMCA Sports Director Derek McInturf says the drills and skills they’re teaching through their APEX program are for everyone.
“Trying to get kids active for one, kids that might be physically fit to kids that aren’t physically fit - we’re looking at all ranges,” says McInturf. The Athletic Performance Enhancement eXperience (APEX) is designed for third through eighth graders, but trainer Montie Fyfe says they can work with even younger kids as long as they can listen and follow instructions. “Give them a little bit of basic footwork, basic balance so that they can have more success through their youth years and then hopefully prolong them so we see them at the high school level,” says Fyfe. Fyfe, also a track coach at Grand Island Senior High, says keeping kids in competitive sports is not their goal. But it can be part of the path of lifelong fitness, which is why McInturf says APEX fits the YMCA’s healthy lifestyle mission.
“What we’re doing here is strictly speed, it’s agility, and it’s flexibility,” he says. Some kids, like 7th grader Brennan Semm, are beginners. “I wanted to get quicker and get in shape because next year I’m going to do football and I wanted to be in shape so the conditioning is not as hard,” says Semm, who says he’s seen improvement in fit tests like the ten yard dash after a few sessions. Others like 8th grader Kiara McInturf are multi-sport athletes wanting to improve their game. “Nothing is impossible as long as you try it,” she says of APEX. “You may not be good at first, but you can always get better, and it’s actually not that hard once you know what to do.” Program leaders say speed and agility training improves on itself, so it makes it easy for them to teach kids at their individual ability levels. “We know how to progress them so that way [beginners and experienced athletes] excel at their own rates,” McInturf says. McInturf says the six week program meets twice a week with something new every time, so anyone can start any time.
“All you’re doing is staying active and getting fit,” he says. Trainers say that for those kids who don’t get into league or competitive sports, the experience can still get them into the habit of exercising, something few kids get outside of athletics. Click HERE to learn more about APEX.